Factors to consider in the testing of toys

A timely reminder following the increase in retail sales of toys during the global Covid-19 pandemic

26 May 2020

UNESCO recently confirmed that most governments across the globe have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This action being taken by governments is amongst many to prevent further spreading and to protect citizens, which unfortunately is adversely affecting many industries, including retail.

One area of retail however that is seeing significant growth includes the sales of traditional toys, such as outdoor activity toys, construction and craft toys as well as board games and puzzles.

This is likely to be related to many parents now working from home while looking after or attempting to home school their children. Many carers will be looking to use any of these resources for play and education, which will occupy a child for more than a few minutes along with board games and puzzles which can be played as a family or as part of home schooling.

Interestingly, it appears a common feature is that the toys showing increased sales are not electronic toys involving a screen – although this may in part be related to many apps and online tools which are available for free. Figures from South Korea showed percentage increases in sales in February 2020 of educational toys by 367%, outdoor slides by 111% and craft kits with an increase of 86%.

In the UK, sales of games & puzzles were up 240% in week ending 21st March 2020 compared to 2019 with four of the top ten places being taken by classic toys from years gone by - Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo and Uno. Sales of art and craft toys including slime and dough almost doubled.

Significantly two of the top ten spots went to high priced construction toys suggesting that it is not just kids who enjoy using their increased spare time to build complex vehicles. Outdoor toys such as playhouses, swings and slides increased by 12% as families look forward to better weather and making the most of their gardens for exercise.

While many of these toys were created long ago – dominos being over 300 years old and  Monopoly created over 100 years ago -  manufacturers and retailers should be aware that legislation and standards are constantly changing and bear little resemblance to the ones in force when these toys were first launched.

For any manufacturer looking to supply a toy used for a child, they must comply with the EN71  European Product Safety standard that applies to all toys sold in the European Union to ensure the toys are safe for use and fit for purpose.  However, in recent years for example, EN 71 parts 1, 7, 8 and 14 were revised in 2018, EN 71-3 in 2019 and a new standard for electrical toys (EN 62115) was published only a few weeks ago. In addition, chemical requirements also change; such as in July 2020 the requirements for phthalates in toys (and other consumer products) will change, extending the scope of those restrictions.

Intertek has provided testing and inspection to the toy industry for over 40 years and now builds on that experience to provide Total Quality Assurance services. We are well placed to advise you on the latest changes to standards and regulations and, if necessary, advise how your products might need to be modified.  Along with testing, pre-shipment inspection and certification this can help provide you with the assurance that your toys are compliant and safe, and we can also provide services to optimise the performance of your toy products.

Learn more about our Juvenile Products Fact Sheet

References

Statista. 2020. South Korea: Impact Of Coronavirus Outbreak On Online Toy Sales 2020 | Statista. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1101712/south-korea-impact-of-coronavirus-outbreak-on-online-toy-sales/ [Accessed 7 April 2020].

Butler, S., 2020. Sales Of Board Games And Jigsaws Soar During Coronavirus Lockdown. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/01/sales-of-board-games-and-jigsaws-soar-during-coronavirus-lockdown [Accessed 7 April 2020].

 

 

Philip Bullock,
Technical Manager for Toys and Hardlines, Intertek UK.

 

Philip has over 40 years' experience in quality control and technical support, formerly for a major retailer in the UK and for the past 19 years for Intertek.  He is a member of BSI CW/15 toy committee, the BTHA UK Toy interpretations Group which discusses interpretations of the toy standards, and the advisory group for Toytest, a laboratory proficiency testing scheme. He attends European co-ordination meetings of Notified Bodies under the European Toy Directive. Over the years he has contributed to many interpretations and approaches to issues which have been adopted by the industry. Day to involvement covers a wide rage of consumer product testing standards he is the Intertek Leicester contact for all interpretation decisions covering the full range of disciplines.